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The Real Story of Heer Ranjha

We all are familiar with Waris Shah (Urdu: السيد وارث علي شاه النقوي الرضوي البهكري البدراني‎) , ਵਾਰਿਸ ਸ਼ਾਹ (Gurmukhi); 1722–1798) who was a Punjabi Sufi poet of Chishti order, renowned for his contribution to Punjabi literature by immortalizing the love story of Heer Ranjha.  His poetic verse is a treasure-trove of Punjabi phrases, idioms and sayings. His minute and realistic depiction of the details of Punjabi life and political situation in the 18th century, remains unique and the entire poem is an album of colorful and enchanting pictures of life in the Punjab, deeply absorbing.
Abdur Rehman Chugtai painting of Heer and Ranjha
Waris Shah was deeply learned in Sufi and domestic cultural lore. His depiction of story of romantic love is a poetic expression of the mystical love of the human soul towards God – the quintessential subject in Sufism and a recurring theme in both Sufi and Sikh mysticism.

The Legend

Heer is an extremely beautiful woman, born into a wealthy family of the Sial clan in Jhang, West Punjab. Sials are Rajputs clan who inhabit Jhang region of West Punjab and founded the city of Sialkot. Ranjha (whose first name is Dheedo; Ranjha is the surname), was a Jatt of the Ranjha tribe. The Ranjha are found in Sargodha, Gujrat, Jhelum and Gujranwala  districts of West Punjab.

Dheedo Ranjha was the youngest of four brothers and lives in the village of Takht Hazara by the river Chenab. Being the baby of the family, he led a life of ease, playing Wanjhli (flute). After being told off by his brothers, Ranjha leaves home and arrives in Jhang. Heer's father Chaudhary Chuchak offers Ranjha a job herding his cattle. Here he falls in love with Heer. She is also mesmerized by the way he plays his flute and falls in love with him. They meet each other secretly for many years until they are caught by Heer's uncle, Kaido, and her mother Malki. Heer is forced by her family and the local priest to marry another man named Saida Khera, a Jatt of Khaira clan.
Tilla Jogian - the seat of Jogi Gorakhnath
Ranjha is heartbroken. He wanders the countryside alone, until eventually he meets Jogi (ascetic). Gorakhnath at Tilla Jogian (the 'Hill of Ascetics', located 50 miles north of the historic town of Bhera, Sargodha District, Punjab), Ranjha becomes a jogi himself, piercing his ears and renouncing the material world. Reciting the name of the Lord (Rabb) he wanders all over Punjab, eventually finding Rangpur, the village where Heer now lives as married woman.
Ranjha Jogi meete Heer
Heer elopes with Ranjha with the help of Saida's sister Sehti who also elopes with her Balochi lover. The Khaira riders catch the eloping couple and beat Ranjha mercilessly. The couple are brought before Raja Adali of Qubala, demanding that Ranjha be put to death. Heer’s uncle Kaidu also came to testify against Ranjha but Chaudhary Chuchak testifies in favour of the lovers. On the advise of elders, Raja Adali orders Saida to divorce Heer so she can marry Ranjha.

The two return to Heer's village, where Heer's parents agree to their marriage. However, on the wedding day, Kaido poisons her. Hearing this news, Ranjha rushes to aid Heer, but is too late, as she has already eaten the poison and has died. Brokenhearted once again, Ranjha eats the remaining poisoned Laddu (sweet) which Heer has eaten and dies by her side.
Samadh/Grave of Heer-Ranjha in Jhang
Heer and Ranjha are buried in Heer's hometown, Jhang. Love-smitten couples and others often pay visits to their mausoleum

Damodar Gulati

Damodar Gulati also known as Damodar Das Arora of Jhang was the greatest classical story teller of Punjab. He was the first to compose the legend of Heer Ranjha that captured the imagination of Punjabis. “Damodar is my name, Gulati is my caste. I came to the fiefdom of the Sial my heart using its discretion led me to spend my days there,” is what he says in the opening lines of his story.

Damodar is mentioned in the Adi Granth (compilation of sacred teachings of Guru Nanak). Bhai Guru Das (1551-1629), a celebrated Sikh religious writer, in one of his Vars (Epic) mentioned the names of some prominent early Sikh converts. One of them is Damodar the wise, resident of Sultanpur. The Sultanpur village is still there, on the road from Jhang to Shah Jewna where a number of Gulatis of Arora caste lived before the partition of India.

According to Prof Indu Banga of the Department of History, Panjab University, the earliest ‘kissa’ in Punjabi was that of Heer-Ranjha, written by Damodar Gulati in 1605 during Akbar’s reign. His work was rewritten by Ahmad Gujjar in the 1680s and then by Shahjahan Muqbil in the second quarter of the 18th century, she added. She said Waris Shah built upon Muqbil’s work and the status of a classic was accorded to his 1766 composition.
Heer and Ranjha

Damodar's Heer

Interestingly, the first character Damodar introduces is that of himself, all set to tell the tale with his eyewitness account, insisting that what he is going to narrate unfolded before his very eyes. The poet appears throughout the narrative at important occasions with his comments, creating a strong impression as if he is an integral part of the story.

After introducing his heroine Heer, Damodar prepares us to receive his other protagonist appearing on the stage. “Having done with this episode (introduction of Heer) let us bring Ranjha into the world.”

Luddan the sailor, feeling empathy for Ranjha who is tired and exhausted after his long travel, let him sleep on Heer’s couch on her river resort. Heer finding the privacy of her bed violated is furious. The beautiful and pampered daughter of a powerful clan chief, hurls a question at Ranjha: “What virtue do you possess that qualifies you to sleep in my bed?" Ranjha takes out a flute and plays it to mesmerize Heer.

Damodar composed the original Heer in 1605. Among the notable versions of the epic story were those of Ahmad Gujjar in the 1680s and then by Shahjahan Muqbil in the second quarter of the 18th century. Waris Shah built upon Muqbil’s work and the status of a classic was accorded to his 1766 composition.

Damodar is not just the foremost story teller of modern Punjab but also one of the most distinguished poets of the Punjabi language. Damodar is undoubtedly the first among the great story tellers of the Punjab, who with his holistic vision created characters that transcending the parochial came to embody the universal human predicament; individual versus repressive social structure. The unmistakable sign of his profound critical social consciousness is that he makes his protagonist, a woman, an eternal metaphor for defiance and resistance without which human love born of freedom would remain a hollow ideal.




  1. Thanks for rewriting the beautiful history.

  2. so beautiful and descriptive.

  3. So interesting🙂 and lovely❤💖

  4. Thanks for wounderful details about Heer Ranjha Kissa. I would like to read Heer Ranhja version of Damodhar Gulati, Ahmed Gujjar and Shahjahan Muqbil !! how to get those versions? Please give links if available online. Thanks and expect similar more stories of past.

  5. Very beautiful and heart touching

  6. Thank you for sharing the beautiful story.

  7. Beautiful & Nice Love Story ❤
    Heer & Ranjha ❤🥀


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